SNIFF, an American technological solutions company, is using service dogs to guard against COVID-19 at Miami Heat games. With the ability to check a fan in less than six seconds at more than ninety percent accuracy, these dogs have gained the interest of many as a possible answer to keeping crowded events and international travel safe as the world struggles to shake off the pandemic, according to a recent story published in Forbes magazine.
American corporation SNIFF has aligned itself with the Israel Dog Unit (IDU), an Israeli nonprofit volunteer unit that deploys service dogs in numerous public safety roles. When the pandemic first broke out, the IDU set out to find a way that dogs could be used to fight it; although their original proposal was rejected in Israel, it gained the interest of SNIFF. SNIFF has filed for a patent with their proprietary canine COVID-19 screening process, which CNN reports as having proven itself in the field at several Heat games already.
Similar studies have used dogs to identify malaria, cancer, and diabetic shock, among other things. Representatives of the IDU say that their dogs will quickly and efficiently check hundreds of passengers, fans, or anyone else entering a crowded public space, with no need for stockpiles of disposable medical supplies or even a separate screening area.
“Dogs already check for drugs and weapons at Israel’s ports of entry, without appreciably slowing the process,” the IDU commented. “Our dogs will identify even asymptomatic carriers with more than ninety percent effectiveness, allowing Israel to treat those that need help and the public to return to pre-pandemic routine.”
The complexities of moving animals and training aids into Israel’s border crossings has made rolling out this project slower than either the IDU or SNIFF had hoped. “An operation of this nature requires the support of certain senior officials. We have written directly to the Prime Minister, as well as the Ministers of Defense, Health, and Transportation, appealing to them to take a scientifically proven step to bring Israel out of this crisis sooner and safer.”
The dogs are especially important in light of the new strains of the virus that have been discovered. Yekutiel Ben-Yaakov, head of the IDU, commented that “Health experts have warned us of half a dozen different mutations at least, and with Israel once again allowing air travel, it is inevitable that some will make their way here. We need to be ready in case a strain develops that is resistant to the vaccines we have now.”
The idea for canine screening originated when Bram, a new immigrant and IDU volunteer, fell ill with COVID-19. While still in a quarantine hotel, he was drafting a curriculum to train his service dog Dana to help detect other patients. Bram gave an interview to Arutz Sheva at the time, when he commented that, "It's a godsend that I happen to handle a service dog already trained in scent detection of both cadavers and explosives. If I can make a small contribution to save many lives, I am happy to do that."
Bram, with service dog Dana
Israel has led the world in COVID-19 vaccination rollout, obtaining millions of doses almost as soon as they were available and vaccinating most of its population within half a year. The Israel Dog Unit has called on Israel’s newly elected government to set aside political differences and give its wholehearted and nonpartisan support to this effort to help Israel stay ahead of the pandemic.